Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Final Word on the Plunge

Gossips just received the following message from Peter Frank, one of the organizers of and a participant in the Second Annual Hudson Polar Plunge:
Dear brave-hearted plungers, magnanimous business sponsors, talented chili cooks, and hand-working volunteers:
Together, we raised $18,000 for two hugely important community organizations, and created a fabulous spectacle doing it! Because of your efforts, the Fire Department Water Rescue and Dive Team can invest in potentially life-saving underwater communication equipment and the Youth Department can make much needed improvements at Oakdale Park to enhance summer youth programs!
We are so grateful to each and every one of you. We look forward to seeing you next year! Will there be any better way to celebrate leap year than to LEAP for two great causes on Saturday, February 29, 2020?

Happening Today

Mayor Rick Rector is holding a town hall discussion about issues in the "Friendly City" and his first year in office. The event, which is planned to be a conversation with constituents, addressing questions and concerns, takes place from 6:00 to 7:15 p.m. today at Hudson Hall, at the historic Hudson Opera House, 327 Warren Street.

Recalling What Was

On Monday, at 3:00 p.m., at City Hall, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment--i.e., the mayor, the treasurer, and the Common Council president--will be opening the sealed bids for 427 Warren Street, the building that was until two years ago the headquarters of the Hudson Police Department.  

The existence of this mid-20th-century building in a block of 19th-century buildings has often prompted Gossips to wonder what was there before, and the impending sale of the building provides the occasion for seeking the answer. 

The quest began with the photographs of Howard Gibson, made available online by Bruce Bohnsack. Gibson took several pictures of the fire, including some very striking ones of the aftermath of the fire. The first picture shows the building that stood at 427 Warren Street. provided the date of the fire: February 1951. The search next took me to the invaluable database of old newspapers, where I discovered that the fire occurred on Thursday, February 8, and was front-page news the next day for both the Times Union and Knickerbocker News. The latter accompanied its coverage of the fire with this photograph by Howard Gibson.

A transcription of the article from Knickbocker News follows.

Five business and apartment buildings in down town Hudson were destroyed by fire yesterday, leaving 18 families homeless. Damage was estimated at more than $300,000. Five firemen suffered smoke poisoning and frost bite.
Firemen from Hudson and four nearby communities battled the blaze for six hours before bringing it under control about 9 p.m. This afternoon one Hudson engine was still at the scene pouring water on the smoldering ruins.
Fire Chief William A. Moore said the fire was discovered shortly after 3 p.m. It apparently started in a shed used for oil storage in the rear of a building at 427 Warren St., occupied by Concra Upholstering Company.
General Alarm Sounded
A few minutes after the first fireman arrived at the scene, the chief said, the fire, fanned by high winds, had spread to the rear of five buildings in Warren St., and a general alarm was sounded.
In addition to the six Hudson fire companies, firemen from Catskill, Greenport, Claverack, and Stockport battled the blaze. At the height of the fire, Chief Moore said, 20 hose lines were played on the burning buildings. Firemen from other nearby communities were alerted and were ready to aid if they were needed.
The three-story brick and wooden building at 427 Warren St. contained several apartments in addition to the upholstering firm.
Buildings Destroyed
Other buildings destroyed by the fire:
423 Warren St., two-story frame building housing Steve's Barber Shop and apartments.
425 Warren St., two-story frame building occupied by the Flax Tailor Shop and apartments.
429 Warren St., three-story wooden building housing the Mischitelli Fruit Store and apartments.
431 Warren St., three-story brick and frame building occupied by business offices and apartments. 
Smoke felled several firemen and near-zero temperatures caused others to suffer frostbite. Treated at Columbia County Memorial Hospital and discharged were: Louis Canape, 32, smoke poisoning; Louis Iaccino Jr., 19, smoke poisoning; Robert Hutchings, 23, smoke poisoning; Theodore Grab, 29, frostbitten hands; and Alex Hallenbeck, 23, frostbitten feet. All the injured firemen were from Hudson.
Several other firemen suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene by members of Greenport Rescue Squad. 
The article about the fire in the Times Union contains basically the same information but includes some details worth sharing. 
Five buildings were destroyed by a wind-fanned fire in Hudson's downtown business section yesterday, causing damage estimated at well over $300,000. Officials described it as the worst fire in the history of that city. . . .
Near zero temperatures and high winds hampered firemen in their efforts to check the blaze. At the height of the fire which broke out shortly after 3 p.m., nearly 400 firemen were fighting the fire. . . . 
The Chief said the flames had made so much headway when the first companies arrived that he immediately sent out the call to other fire units in an effort to keep the fire from spreading through the entire 14 building block and other nearby buildings. A lack of water pressure also hampered fire fighters, he said. . . .
The fire was finally brought under control at 9 p.m. after threatening the entire downtown business section for nearly six hours. Thick billowing smoke also impeded fire fighters as well as the high winds that continuously lashed up the flames and made it difficult for firemen to check the blaze.
The Times Union account of the fire includes not only the names and ages of the firemen who suffered smoke poisoning and frostbite but also their addresses. It is poignant to note that Robert Hutchings, who fought the fire and suffered smoke poisoning, was also made homeless by the fire. He lived at 427 Warren Street.

Fortunately, the contemporary accounts of the buildings destroyed by the fire are somewhat exaggerated. The buildings that stood at 427 and 425 Warren Street are certainly gone, but 423 Warren Street appears to have survived, absent its top story, or perhaps it was rebuilt, and 429 and 431 Warren Street are definitely still with us, appearing pretty much as they did in 1951.


Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Was It Ever Thus? . . . A Footnote

At last night's HDC meeting, Walter Chatham, member of the HDC (Hudson Development Corporation) Board and chair of the Planning Board, opined that the Proprietors would have continued their grid pattern of streets south of Cross Street if South Bay hadn't gotten in the way. 

Forgetting the fact that South Bay was hardly a geographic inconvenience for the Proprietors (the existence of South Bay and North Bay was the very reason the Proprietors chose this location), the speculation once again raises the question of whether Second Street ever actually existed as a roadway between Allen Street and Cross Street and continued all the way to South Bay, as suggested by the 1873 Beers Atlas map. 

Today, I discovered, in the minutes of a Common Council meeting that happened exactly one hundred years ago today, this item of Council business which offers evidence that in 1919 there was an actual street between Allen and Cross streets and a sidewalk, not stairs, running beside it.

Because the reproduction is a bit hard to read, here's the transcription. 
Alderman Finigan stated that the condition of the sidewalk on the Easterly side of South Second Street, between Allen and Cross St., had been called to his attention, and he stated that the sidewalk should be put in a proper state of repair, and moved that the matter be called to the attention of the Commission of Public Works and that the Commission be requested to have the same repaired. 
Patrick B. Finigan, the alderman who represented the First Ward in 1919, owned a business on Front Street that dealt in scrap iron, metals, rags, and rubber and lived at 20 Allen Street.

It's Snowing!

Gossips just discovered this information on the City of Hudson website. The Legal Committee meeting scheduled for tonight at 6:15 p.m. HAS BEEN CANCELED. For anyone planning to attend, stay home and watch the snow fall. 

Tourism and Development: Part 2

When I arrived at the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) meeting, a discussion of the Kaz redevelopment was going on. The board is gearing up for its third attempt to find a developer or developers for the site of the former Kaz warehouse.

There was discussion about how the cash-strapped HDC might get revenue from the remaining two warehouse buildings while they are in the process of crafting a new request for proposals. It was suggested that space in the buildings could be rented out for storing boats and RVs, but before this could happen, the buildings, one of which is reportedly "full of furniture and moldy clothes," would have to be cleaned out and made secure. It was decided that Branda Maholtz would arrange for a tour of the buildings by HDC board members, so they could assess the contents. Walter Chatham suggested that members of the public should have a chance to take anything they want out of the building for a nominal fee of $1. 

The acquisition of land from CSX, needed to access the site from Front Street and make the development viable, was the next topic of discussion. Steve Dunn, who has been tasked with negotiating the purchase, reported that he had finally connected with a decision maker at CSX who "wants to proceed at the existing purchase price." CSX still wants to prohibit residential development on the parcel and wants HDC to indemnify CSX from any third party environmental claims, but Dunn said he was "confident that prior to the next meeting we will come to an agreement on terms" and he would have a draft document for board to consider. Dunn also told the board that his contact at CSX had "basically said, 'The only reason we're doing this is to be a good neighbor.'"  

With regard to the CSX parcel, the board passed a resolution authorizing the expenditure of up to $3,800 for a Phase I environmental assessment.

The discussion then returned to the Kaz redevelopment. Bob Rasner, who was chairing the meeting, said of earlier efforts, "We didn't get buy-in from the community." He said that he and Walter Chatham had "reached out to the immediate neighbors" of the site with the goal of engaging them "in healthy, gracious involvement" in moving the project forward. He said he had talked to five people, four of whom had agreed to be part of the process. The five he mentioned were Beth Kanaga, representing the Tanners Lane Neighborhood Association; Melissa Auf der Maur from Basilica Hudson; Ben Fain and Reed Barrow of Red Barn Hudson; Kristen Keck from Wm. Farmer & Sons; and The Wick. Rasner reported that The Wick had not agreed to participate, which seems perfectly reasonable. Redburn Development Partners, the owners of The Wick, submitted a proposal in the last RFP process, and it could very well be the case that participating in the development of a new RFP would disqualify them from submitting a proposal in response to that RFP.

Tom DePietro called the process Rasner was outlining "premature," saying, "It looks like top-down planning." He, along with Mark Morgan-Perez, advocated for bringing Kaja Kühl and the Columbia students from the Hudson Valley Initiative back to assist with this planning task. When Chatham questioned turning the task over to students, Morgan-Perez clarified that their role would be to "do research and engage the community, and we would use that information to make a much better RFP." 

No decision was made at the meeting about how to move forward. The next HDC meeting, which will combine the annual meeting and the regular monthly meeting, will take place on Tuesday, March 26, at noon at 1 North Front Street.

Tourism and Development: Part 1

There were two meetings last night, happening almost concurrently. Gossips tried to cover both but could only be present for part of each. The meeting of the Tourism Board started first, at 5:30 p.m. This post will report on the first forty minutes or so of that meeting, which went on for another fifty minutes.

Photo: Bruce Gilbert|Newsday
At its January meeting, the Tourism Board received and opened eight proposals submitted in response to an RFP for professional help in "developing a tourism branding and marketing strategy." Last night, the field of eight was narrowed down to four--at least that's where things stood when Gossips left the Tourism Board meeting to go the the HDC board meeting downstairs. The four groups that made the short list are ChandlerThinks, BBG&G, Fifteen Degrees, and Neo Design Group. It was decided that every board member should become familiar with the four proposals, start "digging deep," and come to the next meeting with more information. Tourism Board member Tammy Dillon urged that a decision be made in a timely fashion because, if the group chosen is going to study current visitation, the peak season for visits to Hudson is Memorial Day through Columbus Day.

The board then turned its attention to financial support for community events. It will be remembered that for years the City, in its annual budget, allocated $20,000 to support festivals and events in Hudson. Recipients of a share of the money have in the past been, among others, Flag Day, Winter Walk, the Hudson Pride Parade, the Black Arts and Culture Festival, the Bangladeshi Festival, and the Halloween Parade. For more than a decade, the money was distributed by the Common Council Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee. Last year, after Council president Tom DePietro abolished the AET Committee at the beginning of 2018, the money was distributed by the Finance Committee. This year, the $20,000 was not included in the city budget. This was done, apparently, with the hope that the Tourism Board would provide money out of its budget. 

Last night, when Alderman Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), who chairs the Tourism Board, presented the possibility, board member Jamie Smith Quinn responded, "The budget we have now is not adequate." (The Tourism Board currently has $140,000.) She then said, "It's our mandate to market, right?"

Dillon argued that funding events was worthy discussion. "As a Tourism Board, we need to open it up to anything that attracts people to Hudson." Board member Ted Gramkow concurred. "It's the duty of the board to have a parallel initiative for spending dollars. Can we create more festivals and make festivals better?"

Quinn suggested there were other places for events to get money, naming as one Columbia County Tourism, and expressed the opinion that the Tourism Board should not be giving out grants. Dillon had argued that some events relied on support from the City, noting that if the Halloween Parade didn't get funding, it wouldn't happen. Responding to this, Quinn asked, "If it's so important, why didn't [the City] fund it?" Board member Jeff Hunt wondered too why the City had dropped the $20,000 from the budget.

Hunt said if the board were to use $20,000 of its budget to fund events, there needed to be established procedures. Volo said he would investigate the procedures that had been put in place by the now defunct Arts, Entertainment & Tourism Committee. Board member Ellen Thurston offered her assistance in reviewing and establishing procedures.

On the topic of the Tourism Board's mandate, the law that created the board is the same law that established a lodging tax in Hudson: Chapter 275, Article VIII of the City Code, enacted in March 2017. According to the law, the board is "empowered to take all reasonable steps it determines desirable, necessary and proper to market the City of Hudson as a destination for overnight and daytrip visitors by making use of the funds set aside by the City Treasurer." The problem may with the language of the law or with now the term market is defined--narrowly or broadly. 

In an interview on WGXC last week, Council president Tom DePietro talked about the Tourism Board and its mandate. He told of a meeting he and Mayor Rick Rector had with two representatives of the lodging group early on in 2018. As DePietro tells the story, "We asked them what they were hoping for [from the lodging tax]. They did not talk about branding or marketing. They said create more amenities and a friendly, a better city that people are going to want to do things in." (The interview can be heard here. The comments quoted begin at 13:00.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Things to Keep on the Radar

Next Monday, March 4, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (BEA), made up of Rick Rector (mayor), Heather Campbell (City treasurer), and Tom DePietro (Common Council president), will be opening the sealed bids received for 427 Warren Street, the former police station.

The bids will be opened and reviewed at 3:00 p.m. at City Hall. The invitation to bid can be reviewed here.

Next Tuesday, March 5, Rolling Grocer 19 opens its bricks-and-mortar store at 6 South Second Street.


The store opens for the first time at 2:00 p.m. next Tuesday and will remain open until 7:00 p.m. Its regular hours going forward will be 2:00 to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The store will be closed on Sunday and Monday.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Planning and Zoning Prep

Back in November, the Common Council passed a resolution creating a Planning and Zoning Special Committee "dedicated to reviewing the City's Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code, analyzing future development opportunities and obstacles, and recommending a course of action to be taken by the City of Hudson is [sic] an appropriate vehicle to address zoning and planning issues." According to the resolution, this special committee was to "operate and exist until December 31, 2019." Three months after the resolution passed, the committee has yet to meet for the first time, but when it does, it's likely that there will be a lot of conversation about form-based code.

To help prepare readers for this discussion, Gossips recommends this brief paper published by the Form-Based Codes Institute (FBCI): "Form-Based Codes Defined." The drawing below, taken from the document, helps illustrate the difference between conventional zoning and form-based code.

When you check out the document, be sure to watch the video in the upper right of the page.

Contemplating Life Without Plastic Bags

In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his intention to make a ban on single-use plastic bags part of his executive budget. You can learn more about the proposed ban on plastic bags and the threat plastic bags pose to the environment on Saturday, March 9, when sustainability advocate Jennie Romer and other friends of the environment present a talk here in Hudson called "The Plastic Bag: Icon of Waste." 

The event, which was organized by Fourth Ward Supervisor Linda Mussmann, who in November proposed a ban on single-use bags in Columbia County, will take place at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 9, at the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street.

I Guess We Can't Ignore the Possibility

The following notice was posted on Facebook a few hours ago.

Update: The training, with "simunitions"--simulated firearms--is continuing today, Tuesday, February 26.

The DNA of Buildings

A few months ago, a new restaurant, Isaan Thai Star, opened at 11 North Seventh Street. A hundred years ago today, the Columbia Republican announced the opening of a new restaurant called The County Gentleman in that very building.

The Shirley, which was operated by the same proprietor as the new County Gentleman, was located at 340 Warren Street, currently the location of Swoon Kitchenbar. It seems a hundred years ago The Shirley, as Swoon is today, was one of Hudson's finer restaurants. It was there, according to an item that appeared on the front page of the Columbia Republican on February 25, 1919, that friends gathered to honor Dr. Henry C. Galster and celebrate his return from service in World War I as a captain in the Medical Corps.  

The picture below, which was probably taken in the 1930s, shows 340 Warren Street when it was the location of yet another restaurant, Brandow's.   

There was a (fondly remembered) restaurant called Brandow's in this building again for a year or so in the early 1990s. In the later 1990s, it became a cafe and market, again called Brandow's, and remained so until it became Swoon in 2004. (The Brandow's sign, done in stained glass, still survives under the Swoon signage.)


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

This week wraps up the month of February with some pretty intriguing meetings.
  • On Monday, February 25, the Common Council Fire Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. and the Police Committee meets at 6:00 p.m. Both meetings take place at City Hall. No agenda is available for either meeting.
  • On Tuesday, February 26, there are two meetings happening almost simultaneously at 1 North Front Street. At 5:30 p.m., the Tourism Board will hold its meeting upstairs, around the conference table once used by HDC and HCDPA. If memory serves, there are just enough chairs around that table for the eight members of the Tourism Board, so it's unclear how members of the public will be accommodated, and it's certain members of the public will show up for the meeting. The board is expected to discuss the eight proposals received in response to an RFP (request for proposals) for professional assistance in developing "a competitive identity, brand strategy, and marketing strategy" for Hudson--a goal that some in the community consider inappropriate and indeed absurd.

  • Also on Tuesday, February 26, in the conference room downstairs at 1 North Front Street, the Hudson Development Corporation board will hold its regular monthly meeting, starting at 6:00 p.m. At its last meeting, on January 29, it was made known that this meeting will be a workshop to define what the board wants to accomplish in 2019.  
  • On Wednesday, February 27, the Common Council Legal Committee meets at 6:15 p.m. in City Hall. There is no agenda available for this meeting, but at its last meeting the committee took up the issues of sidewalk repair and short-term rentals. It is expected that the discussion of those issues will continue at this month's meeting.
  • On Thursday, February 28, Mayor Rick Rector holds a town hall discussion about the "Friendly City" and his first year in office. The conversation takes place from 6:00 to 7:15 p.m. at Hudson Hall, 327 Warren Street.

On Friday, the month of March begins, and the first day of spring will only be nineteen days away.

Play It Again

Dan Udell's video of the Second Annual Hudson Polar Plunge, cut short by mechanical difficulties (the video not the plunge), is now available on YouTube

Capturing the Moment

You can view Valerie Shaff's photographs of the Second Annual Polar Plunge by clicking here.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Almost Like Being There

Lance Wheeler's video of the Second Annual Polar Plunge is now available on YouTube.

Hudson Polar Plunge 2019

Gossips' coverage of the Second Annual Polar Plunge is less than complete. I share the best of the few pictures I was able to take and will provide the links to Dan Udell's and Lance Wheeler's videos of the event as soon as they are available.

I arrived at the beach late and left early because coverage of the chilly part of the Polar Plunge had to take a backseat to the chili part of the event. Gossips' Black Bean Chili was entered in the Great Chili Cook-Off.

Photo: Rachel Spath Kappel
(Here I am with my chili and Dorothy Heyl, who came by to sample the chili and share some gossip.) 

Alas, Gossips' Black Bean Chili did not win the coveted Blue Plunger award. That honor went to Morabito's Sub Shop & Deli.

I'm not even sure how many people voted for Gossips' chili, since, in this picture, Tamar Adler, who organized the hugely successful Great Chili Cook-Off, has her finger over the tally marks for Gossips' chili. (Was that intentional to spare my feelings?) I know a few people voted for it.

Photo: Rachel Spath Kappel
The Second Annual Hudson Polar Plunge and the Great Chili Cook-Off (attendees made a modest donation of $5 for all the chili they could eat) raised about $17,500 for the Hudson Youth Department and the Hudson Fire Department Water Rescue Team.